OUTLINE: (1) challenge to get involved; (2) summary of current news highlights for Palestine; and (3) Sherif's interview with Dennis Fox, psychologist, on Israel's blocking of a conference of psychologists in Palestine.
PROCEEDINGS: Good morning everyone, and welcome to "This Week in Palestine," a weekly forty-five minute segment of news from Palestine, and discussion of issues relevant to the Palestinians' struggle for freedom from Israel's savage military occupation and colonization of their homeland. This program presents news and analysis from the Palestinian perspective, a perspective we do not get from the mainstream media.
It is Sunday, November 23rd, 2008.
We ask our listeners as we do every week: were you involved last week in the Palestine-Israel peace movement and the Palestinians' struggle for freedom from Israel's savage military occupation and colonization of their homeland? Did you speak out on the atrocities Israel is committing every day in Gaza and the West Bank? If not, why not? Palestine was never in greater need of your help.
We can not overemphasize to our listeners that the best thing you can do is to go to Palestine and experience the situation on the ground for yourselves. There is nothing that can bring home to you the realities on the ground in Palestine than to go there and see for yourselves. Never mind what you hear out of the filter of the mainstream media, or for that matter what you may hear in this program. The best way to discover the truth is to go and see for yourselves. Nothing that you may have read or heard could prepare you for what you will see.
But try as you might you can not go to Gaza. The Israeli authorities will not allow you to enter Gaza. They have not allowed anyone to attend the Fifth International Conference on "Siege and Mental Healthâ¦Walls vs Bridges" organized by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, in partnership with the UN's World Health Organization on October 27th and October 28th. As pressure is mounting on Israel to end its abominable siege on Gaza, it is desperately trying to hide from the international community the crimes against humanity that it is committing every day against the 1.4 million helplessly imprisoned Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Israel has been waging campaigns to hide the truth and silence its voices for many years. Its troops have routinely assaulted journalists recording events Israel does not want the world to see, and confiscated or destroyed their cameras. Its soldiers have deliberately shot and killed numerous reporters working for international news agencies, such as Reuters and British television. Palestinian reporters have been especially targeted because their deaths are not noted in the Western media. And now, it is banning foreign journalists from entering Gaza.
As reported by Democracy Now, executives from the Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times, BBC, CNN and other news organizations have signed a letter criticizing the Israeli government's decision to ban journalists from entering Gaza. In a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the executives wrote, "We are gravely concerned about the prolonged and unprecedented denial of access to the Gaza Strip for the international media." One might be tempted to applaud this unusual initiative were it not for its sheer hypocrisy. What is the purpose of lamenting lack of media access if, when the same organizations had access, none of them has ever dared to report honestly on events and situations their journalists have seen in Gaza and the West Bank?
Gaza is a hell hole. Years of continued military attacks against the helplessly imprisoned civilian population have caused hundreds of deaths; destroyed the civilian infrastructure, reducing significant parts of Gaza to rubble; obliterated the once-thriving Gazan economy, propelling the population to abject destitution, dependent on foreign aid for food, water, and medical care; and all but wiped out the sanitation and public health infrastructures, forcing the population to drink polluted water and wade through open sewers which they are not allowed to repair because Israel refuses to allow in the necessary materials and spare parts.
All of these savageries have been conducted in full view of the international community, but we are the only people in the world who are prevented from knowing what is happening in Palestine because our media resolutely maintain a stony silence; a silence born out of the new Anti-Semitism of Arab hatred, and of the massive Israeli propaganda machinery and the fraudulent image that propaganda projects of Israel.
Did you know for example that more than two hundred sick Palestinians have died because Israel has refused to let them seek medical treatment outside Gaza? Or has deliberately delayed approving their exit permits in order to cause their deaths? Here are summaries of four cases fully documented by the United Nations' World Health Organization in its publication: "Access to Health Services for Palestinian people: Case studies of five patients in critical conditions who died while waiting to exit the Gaza Strip" dated April, 2008. Here are summaries of 4 of the case studies contained in that report:
1. Mona Nofal, a married woman from Gaza with seven children was found to suffer from a malignant tumor in the rectum. In 2005, before the Rafah crossing into Egypt was closed, she was first treated with chemotherapy in Egypt to shrink the tumor after which she underwent surgery to remove the shrunken tumor. After that, her disease took several twists and turns, starting with side effects of her surgery to a spread of the cancer to her liver and her abdomen lining. She received a second treatment in Egypt in early 2006 after which she returned to Gaza in August 2006 where she found only two of the drugs she needed to take. The third was unavailable anywhere because Israel was withholding the tax payments due the Palestinian Authority and the U.S. had forbidden any foreign aid from reaching the PA either from the U.S. or from European countries. Meanwhile, the Rafah crossing into Egypt had closed. Mrs. Nofal sought treatment in Israel twice and was treated there twice. At the Israeli hospital, it was found that the cancer had spread to her right leg and regular treatment was recommended otherwise her cancer would spread. She was discharged from the Israeli hospital on September 25th, 2007 after receiving her second treatment with a hospital appointment two weeks later for a third treatment. Back in Gaza, her condition worsened. Her application for a permit to enter Israel was refused. Her appointment with the hospital expired while she was waiting for the permit, which meant she had to apply for a new hospital appointment. Recognizing the severity of the condition, the Israeli hospital on November 22nd issued an open appointment for her that did not need to be renewed. But in the more than six weeks that had elapsed, Mrs. Nofal's cancer had spread to her bones. The cancer in her liver caused her to turn yellow and her eyelids to enlarge and cover her eyes giving her difficulty seeing. On November 24th, she lost consciousness several times and passed away in her husband's arms.
Mrs. Mona Nofal was clearly not a "security risk" having been allowed into Israel twice and twice investigated. So why was her permit refused?
2. In 2007, Amir El Yazji, a nine-year-old boy who lived in Gaza City with his parents and five siblings, was suffering from meningoencephalitis. Amir had to wait a week for a CT machine to be repaired because of the shortage of maintenance parts which Israel severely restricts. Nor could the boy's pain be alleviated because of the shortage of painkillers in the public sector caused by Israel's refusal to permit medical supplies into Gaza. The result of the CT scan on November 13th, 2007 indicated that Amir had a small hyperdense lesion located in the anterior wall of the brain. It was decided that he had to go to Israel for treatment. The next day Amir's father got a referral for treatment abroad and went to apply for an urgent permit. The Sorosky hospital in Israel promptly replied that it was ready to receive Amir, but the Israeli authorities dawdled four days before issuing the permit. The Israelis also would not let the medical team accompanying Amir in the Palestinian ambulance through the Erez crossing, although the same people had accompanied patients in the past. Five alternate teams offered by the Palestinian side, consisting of 15 medical staff working in the Palestinian Ministry of Health were denied entry. When the Israeli officer finally cleared one of the teams, he warned his Palestinian counterpart that the ambulance would have only 15 minutes to reach the Erez crossing point, a trip which usually takes an hour, thus forcing the father to wait until the following day. By then, it was too late. Nine-year-old Amir El Yazji died the following morning at 7:45 am.
3. Said Al-Aydi, an eighteen-month old baby boy suffered from liver malfunction. He was referred to an Egyptian hospital for treatment in December, 2006 and stayed there for two months. The patient was supposed to receive a complementary treatment in the same hospital in July, 2007, but the Rafah crossing into Egypt closed. Baby Said's condition deteriorated and he was hospitalized in the Gaza European Hospital several times. Baby Said died on February 19th while waiting for the Rafah crossing to open.
4. Khadija Al-Aqed, a 65-year-old female patient with heart disease had a pacemaker implanted in her body in the 1990s at the Beilinson hospital in Israel. In December 2007, the pacemaker stopped working and she was referred urgently to the Al Urdun hospital in Amman, Jordan for surgery. On January 21st, 2008, the family submitted a request for an exit permit to Jordan via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing. Despite the urgency, the Israeli authorities delayed issuing a reply to the request until January 30th, when they said her permit to exit Gaza for medical treatment had been denied for "security reasons." Mrs. Al-Aqed died on February 10th from cardiac arrest.
5. This last case is from the records of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Islam, a young Palestinian boy was not allowed to get medical treatment in Israel, or anywhere else, because of the Israeli pretext of "national security." Islam was 4 years old.
Israel's nauseating use of the pretext of "national security" or "security concerns" to justify all of its actions and all of the crimes it commits against Palestinians, whether they be physical or psychological abuse of civilians at the so-called checkpoints, or the ransacking of homes, or the kidnapping and jailing of young men and children in the middle of the night, or the killing of children going to or returning from school â or in their classrooms â should be rejected outright or at least seriously challenged.
One thing we should always keep in mind is that the war Israel is waging has been described by none other than former Israeli PM Sharon as a war of expulsion. Its purpose is to uproot and expel the Palestinian population from their homeland and annex their homes, lands and properties to Israel. With this in mind, everything falls into place: the pillaging and demolition of homes, the expropriation of land and water resources, the arbitrary arrests, the jailing and torture of a huge part of the population, and the killings, all make gruesome sense.
The siege on Gaza was imposed by Israel with the approval of the U.S. and the conspiring silence of the European Union with the objective of making the population suffer to such an extent that they will rise against their elected government and elect a new government subservient to the U.S. and Israel. This "collective punishment" as it is known in legal circles is itself a war crime. But the reality is far worse than collective punishment. Gaza's residents have been reduced to abject poverty. A proud, well educated, industrious, independent people with a once thriving economy are now dependent on UN handouts of food and water. Israel has been quick to point out that it is allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza, but only the faintest trickle of food and water is allowed in â just enough to keep the residents at the barest margins of life, going so far as to prevent Gazans from fishing by militarily attacking and ramming their fishing vessels and kidnapping fishermen who are merely trying to get some food. What can one call the imposition of suffering just short of death? The fact of the matter is that Gaza is being used as a laboratory for the mass torture of 1.4 million imprisoned Palestinians. The siege on Gaza is an abomination!
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, called for an immediate end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. A visiting delegation of European Parliament dignitaries also called for an immediate end to the siege. But the European Parliament does not hold sway with the European Union which is solely responsible for European policy, and the EU continues to be silent on that matter. Silence in the witnessing of criminal behavior amounts to aiding and abetting in the commission of the crimes and is itself a crime. The EU's criminal silence has to end.
Our featured guest today is Dr. Dennis Fox, Emeritus Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Psychology at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Illinois; co-editor of the second edition of "Critical Psychology, an Introduction;" activist; writer; photographer; and newspaper columnist. Professor Fox has lived in Israel for more than a year and, since 2001, has visited Israel and the West Bank three times. He has lectured at Ben Gurion University, at Al Quds University, and at Bir Zeit University, and has recently returned from a trip he undertook to attend the Fifth International Conference on "Siege and Mental Healthâ¦.Walls vs Bridges" which the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme organized in partnership with the United Nations' World Health Organization. Like all those who had registered to present academic papers or attend the conference, Professor Fox was prevented from entering Gaza. He joins us now by telephone.
Good morning Professor Dennis Fox. Welcome to "This Week in Palestine."
1. Thank you for joining us, in spite of the fact that you must be somewhat jet-lagged.
2. You went to attend the Conference on Mental Health in Gaza. I understand the WHO was coordinating entry visas and permits with the Israeli authorities?
3. What happened when you tried to enter Gaza?
4. What reason did the Israeli authorities give for not letting anyone enter Gaza for the conference? Were they worried about news leaking out of how bad the situation in Gaza really is?
5. You presented a paper at the conference. Could you briefly describe the highlights of the paper?
6. If I may, Dennis, I would like to read a letter which the Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, the eminent Palestinian psychiatrist Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj wrote to a person he was scheduled to meet in Jordan:
7. There was also a letter put out by the conference which you signed with 58 other academics and researchers:
8. And a statement issued by Dr. Alice Rothchild, co-chair of the Boston Group "Visions of Peace with Justice in I/P":
9. In the remaining couple of minutes available to us, are there other things you experienced in your trip that you would like to share with us?
Thank you so much Dr. Dennis Fox for being our guest today. It was a pleasure to have you with us.
And that is all we have for today. We wish our listeners a pleasant and restful weekend and look forward to having you with us next week same time. Until then, this is Sherif Fam signing off for now and urging our listeners to get involved. Go visit Palestine and see for yourselves the inhumanity, the cruelty and torture that our government is supporting with our tax dollars!
This Week In Palestine (a weekly part of Truth and Justice Radio) is a three-quarter-hour segment of news from Palestine and discussion of issues relevant to the Palestinians' struggle for freedom from Israel's brutal military occupation and colonization of their homeland.
Truth and Justice Radio is aired Sundays 6-10am ET on WZBC 90.3FM, Newton, MA, streaming at wzbc.org; its website, truthandjusticeradio.org, has a link to recent This Week In Palestine archives; more editions are obtainable by navigating through our playlists.